In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Latin and Indo-European

  • Introduction
  • Handbooks
  • Collections of Papers and Selected Writings
  • Dialectal Position of Latin
  • Latin Syntax and Morphosyntax
  • Poetics and Comparative Metrics

Classics Latin and Indo-European
Vincent Martzloff
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 July 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0384


Latin is part of the language family termed “Indo-European.” Historical and comparative grammar aims at reconstructing at least some aspects of the unattested Proto-Indo-European language (phonology, morphology, a part of the lexicon). Indo-European studies may help the classicist to understand the historical development and the meaning of many words of the Latin vocabulary. In some favorable cases, etymological considerations underpinned by a careful methodology may allow a better knowledge of Roman realia, institutions, and theonyms. Indo-European linguistics is also a useful tool to elucidate archaisms preserved in the oldest epigraphical records and in pre-Classical Literary Latin.


Recent handbooks include Weiss 2020, Sihler 1995, and Meiser 1998. Leumann 1977 and Sommer and Pfister 1977 are still indispensable. Clackson and Horrocks 2007 and Meillet 1928 provide introductions to the field.

  • Clackson, James, and Geoffrey Horrocks. 2007. Blackwell history of the Latin language. Oxford and Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

    Useful introductory handbook. Does not focus exclusively on Indo-European reconstruction.

  • Leumann, Manu. 1977. Lateinische Laut- und Formenlehre. Munich: Beck.

    Very good handbook for its time and still quite authoritative. One of the most influential works in the field.

  • Meillet, Antoine. 1928. Esquisse d’une histoire de la langue latine. Paris: Hachette.

    Classic introductory handbook. Still valuable. Several re-editions.

  • Meiser, Gerhard. 1998. Historische Laut- und Formenlehre der lateinischen Sprache. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.

    An accessible introduction in German. Clearly presented.

  • Sihler, Andrew L. 1995. New comparative grammar of Greek and Latin. New York and Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Treats both Greek and Latin. Very useful for a beginner despite the lack of bibliography.

  • Sommer, Ferdinand, and Raimund Pfister. 1977. Handbuch der lateinischen Laut- und Formenlehre: Eine Einführung in das sprachwissenschaftliche Studium des Lateins. Heidelberg, Germany: Winter.

    Important collection of data, providing a safe philological basis for the study of the historical phonology of Latin.

  • Weiss, Michael. 2020. Outline of the historical and comparative grammar of Latin. 2d ed. Ann Arbor, MI: Beech Stave Press.

    An up-to-date and reliable historical grammar of Latin, originally published in 2009. The data are presented in a user-friendly format. Rich bibliography. The opening pages of the book offer an interesting development on the “discovery” of the Indo-European language family and the history of Indo-European scholarship.

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